GEN CON 2012 - A Critical Overview!

Every year gamers from around the world invade downtown Indianapolis, Indiana to experience what truly is, "The best four days in gaming" and this year was no different!  Well, ok, it was a bit different for me, but for the masses, it was as fun as it ever was!


Why was it different for me?  This was the first Gen Con I was going to where I wasn't volunteering somewhere, and it was the first one where Mrs. Tox was joining me as well! As you can imagine, being a geek is one thing, being a geek around your wife is another, and being a geek around your wife while surrounded by 40 thousand other geeks is a whole new ball game!


That said, Mrs. Tox survived on her own quite well!  In fact, I think half my life savings were spent on geeky t-shirts she wanted!  That not-withstanding, she held her own gaming as well!  More on that in a bit though!

For us , Gen Con started before we even got there!  We spent the Monday and Tuesday before Gen Con dropping off my daughter in Kansas, at college!  Yes, Tox is THAT old.  While it was an emotional time, everyone is very happy and proud of her!  That left us with two hyper young boys though, excited to go see their aunt and uncle, also in Kansas.  After dropping them off, we headed to the Airport in Kansas City to catch a flight to Indy!


Now, no offense to Kansas City, or their airport, but it's the last place you expect to run into a gaming CEO and his staff.  That said, while waiting in line for our Southwest flight, I turn and see an old friend, and "Secretary of Keepin' it Real" at Gary Games, John Fiorillo, also standing in line.  Standing next to him is Justin Gary, CEO of Gary Games, and pretty much their entire staff, sans Brian Kibler!  I can only imagine which person's luggage they shoved him in to avoid paying for a flight!


Of course, my first comment after greetings was, "You guys have your iPads!?"  The next 2 hours were spent chatting, catching up, and of course, playing SolForge!  I walked off that plane SO impressed it was redonkulous! The game itself looked finished!  Seriously, it was THAT polished!  The artwork was amazing and the gameplay simple and intuitive.  Mrs. Tox thrashed me one game, with her finishing the game with 78 life and me at 0!  Total crushing!  We both enjoyed the mechanics of leveling your cards and playing better and better cards as the game went on, but also, we loved that the artwork evolved as well.


Your baby dragon eggs grew into a whelp of pain bringing and ultimately into a giant, fire breathing monstrosity! Mages became mighty wizards and little plants became monstrosities of monumental massacre!  In short, we're backing it, and I highly suggest checking it out at the very least!  In the meantime though, you can see our interview with Justin Gary (Cameo by Richard Garfield) and some gameplay footage with John Fiorillo at Scotty's Brewhouse as well!


This all happened Wednesday evening, before the event even started!  Thursday brought insanity and I mean insanity!  The top 5 games on my "Must have list" were (In no particular order):





     7 Wonders Cities

     Smash Up!


I knew of all of these, Cities and Seasons were the ones expected to have the least amount of stock so when the Vendor hall opened, I made my way to Asmodee's booth as fast as possible.  I was greeted with a line of about 200! I was also greeted with, "Hi, welcome to Asmodee... we have no Seasons!"  /Sad Face!  I snagged my copy of Cities and jumped in the ridiculous line thinking, well, this is going to be fun!


Now, a word about "preparations".  Asmodee should be commended for this.  While others (*Cough*Fantasy*Cough*Flight*) were dealing with 3 hour lines, Asmodee had employees armed with smart phones, square apps, and taking cash to move things along.  I was literally in line less than a minute, paid cash to an Asmodee employee, got a written receipt and was on my way.  Bravo and well done by their event planning folks!


I only wish I could say the same for others.  If we you were there, or even if you weren't, you know about Netrunner.  I made my way next to Fantasy Flight's booth.   I should have just gone to the can, as it was about as much fun.  Their line snaked and wrapped itself around corners, other booths, blocked other vendors, and was literally a 3 hour wait.  Oh, and did I mention they ran out of Netrunner?  Did I mention that there were people with 11 boxes of Netrunner in line?


Look, I get it, you may not have planned accordingly for stock, or maybe you had distribution issues.  It's all good. I'm disappointed when I can't get a game I want at a con, but I never think they should have so much that half their stock goes home with them.  That said though, when first, you sell more than you have for the people who entered tournaments and don't secure they have copies it's bad.  But when you let people buy so many copies of one game that you enable the very factor you try and destroy with a Living Card Game, it's bad.  LCGs are SUPPOSED to eliminate the need for chasing cards and paying exorbitant amounts on eBay, while inviting players to join in at the level they wish to invest in.  Not limiting purchases to 2 or 3 copies per person just put a massive sour taste in many people's mouth.  I even offered a guy who had 9 boxes $80 for one and he said, "Nope, they're going on eBay and you can buy it there."  Douchbaggery aside, these things are in Fantasy Flight's control and they chose to not care.


I grabbed my copy of X-Wing and all the expansions, as well as a copy of the Rune Age expansion, and I settled in for a grueling line experience.  Thankfully though, being armed with Mrs. Tox and an entourage of friends, we traded spots and got through it without one person waiting in line too long.  We would tag-team in and out, and during one interlude, even got to meet Mr. Wil Wheton!


Wil was awesome!  For a nominal price, he was my friend for 38 seconds!  Seriously though, he was a great person to meet and I suggest you do if you are at a con he is at.  He signed a few autogrpahs for us, and even was nice enough to take my business card!  Who knows, maybe I'll get on Table Top one day?


Speaking of, we attended the Table Top Seminar, hosted by Boyan Radakovich, the associate producer, which was amazing!  While I didn't get a lot of time to speak with Boyan, you can check out The Spiel's interview with him here where he speaks about how the show started and more!  What these guys and girls are doing for our industry is just plain awesome!

Next, it was to AEG's booth for Smash Up!  I need to take a second and say something here, again about preparations, but also, about networking.  Todd Rowland is the awesome director of awesome marketing at AEG and also the producer of Smash Up!.  He and I connected prior to the show and I figured, well this is cool, but I'm one of a hundred people wanting this guy's time so he will probably throw me a bone and move me along.  Exact, and I mean exact, opposite!


Todd was one of the nicest people to us at the event!  He opened the AEG doors to any ideas we had and was more than happy to accommodate us for interviews, game video content, and more!  Todd seemed to know immediately that any press for AEG, small or big, is a good thing, and I have to thank him for all he did for us while we were there!


Now, as some of you may know, myself and Rodney Smith from Watch It Played, connected and collaborated on an upcoming video, The Ultimate Smash Up!.  Rodney, who is even more awesome than his show, if possible, was a blast to work with.  We went very "from the hip" for this one, and amazingly have something coming soon that we think everyone will enjoy!  Live footage of him explaining the game, of me reviewing the game, and one of us smashing in the face of the other while playing is coming soon to a YouTube near you!  In the meantime, don't forget about Rodney's Indiegogo campaign, and if you are a fan, let him know!


AEG was nice enough to give us our own area to play at and video tape the entire thing, and even opened their booth to us to get final thoughts from Todd himself!  We caught some news about the first expansion (hint, STEAMPUNKS are coming!), and just had an overall fun time putting this project together!


The days at Gen Con just seem to bleed together, mostly because you do a ton of gaming after hours as well and this Con was no different!  Friday night I was introduced to a game I never heard of and immediately fell in love with! Evil Baby Orphanage!


I was so impressed with the game, I hunted down Justin Gibbs, the designer, the next day at his booth and caught a great interview with him!  He's a great guy who has had a massively successful Kickstarter project and a game that I dare say, was one of the top 10 at the con!  It was flying off the shelves and after playing for seveal hours Friday night, I saw it everywhere I looked!


This, to me, is half the fun of making it to Gen Con.  You get to find gems that you've never heard of before, meet folks you may never have a chance to meet, and play games!  Speaking of things like that, the next hight point was meeting the guys behind Chip Theory Games!


Chip Theory Games are the guys behind Hoplomachus, another successful Kickstarter game that was at the Con. Well, I say "at the con" but really, it was Josh and Adam huffing it around on foot, showing the game to everyone they could! At one point, I was sitting down with them to learn the game and a random fan comes by and yells, "That's it!  I've been looking all over the Con for this game! Can I watch!?"  He was so excited and it was so cool to see that reaction, you just had to smile!


Josh and Adam were nice enough to not only demo the game for me, but provided me a prototype copy to review. Now, I must thank Larry and Tim from the InD20 Group before I go any further, as without them, this wouldn't have happened.  They knew the Chip Theory guys and were nice enough to introduce us, so I can't thank them enough for that!  


Josh and Adam have a really good game on their hands and I can't wait to bring you the full review, along with some other friends like the InD20 Group, Games and Grub, and FatherGeek who may or may not be involved with this project as well! More to come on that in the future! :) 

There was just so much about the Con that was amazing! Between all the amazing costumes, the events, the tournaments, the demos... OH, the DEMOS!


I would be SO remiss if I didn't take the time to talk about two major demos I had while at the con!  First up was the DC deckbuilding game from Cryptozoic.  Professor Nathaniel Yamaguchi (yes, he's really a professor and that isn't his evil mastermind name) was nice enough to give me a 1 on 1 demonstration of the game.


He was the Flash (and went first as of course, he's the fastest man alive) and I was Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. I had a blast playing this game!  It was so intuitive, I saw cards, would ask "does that symbol do this?" and Nathaniel would say, "Yup, you got it!".  It was just simple to pick up, easy to know what to do, and really gave me a full experience.


I loved that I felt like I was Green Lantern!  The game is most definitely not Penny Arcade with a skin at all!  While yes, it uses the Cerberus engine, and will provide the ability to mix cards of that engine from other games together, it's totally different from Penny Arcade.  


It is unique as well as it only uses one resource system, Power.  Either you have enough to recruit new Equipment, Locations, Super Powers, Heroes or Villains to your deck, or you have enough to knock out the Super Villains, or, well, you don't!  Victory points still determine the winner, but there is a nice bit of variation to that as well, with cards like the Suicide Squad and others that are variable points based on your overall performance in the game.


Overall, a great experience! We even got time with Cory Jones, the President and Chief Creative Officer from Crypto which you can see here (Oh, and yes, The Professor won, by 5 points):

The second Demo I must tell you about is the Marvel Legendary Demo from Upper Deck!  Now, as major Crits Happen fans know, we exist because of the World of Warcraft Minis game from Upper Deck.  This site was originally a fan site for that game, which I still to this day love and cherish.  For anyone who was a fan of that game knows though, Upper Deck is not synonymous with gaming excellence, and at times, has flat out buried a good license.


It is with those thoughts that I sat down to the table, at 3 PM Sunday, for the last Demo of the Con, and met Jason Brenner, the game designer and brand manager for Upper Deck.  Little did I know, I was about to walk away with the best demo experience of the weekend!


First, Jason did a great job acknowledging that UDE has had it's challenges.  He also gave us some insight into the future of Marvel Legendary, which is expected out in October or November this year, pending distribution, and plans they do have!


The base set is over 500 cards, and as Jason explained, has a TON of customization to it!  There are multiple Mastermind Villains (Such as Loki, the Red Skull, and Magneto to name a few) who each affect the game and it's win conditions.  Then you have multiple Schemes, which are main plot actions the Mastermind Villains interact with, to additionally affect the game and impact your abilities to win.  So just off the bat, you have major replay-ability options with these two changes.


But before you go further, you have 15 heroes in the game, all of which have different cards to make up the Hero deck, and each game's Hero deck consists of 5 of these Heroes and their cards!  Yes, just try and figure out the math... TONS, literally TONS of combinations and we haven't even passed the set-up!


Intrigued I was, so play I did!  And I quote, "That was the best game of the weekend!" Jason said after we finished!  Mrs. Tox, myself, and he teamed up to take down Loki, with only 2 cards left to spare!  It was edge of your seat, fast paced action, where we recruited heroes, beat up Loki, and stopped Super Villains from escaping the city along the way!


Jason himself, also added to the experience, by both being funny as all get out, and open and honest with his opinions.  I love getting demos, but I love getting demos even more from people who aren't trying to sell you a game, and rather letting it unfold in front of you so you can make you own judgment and he did an excellent job in this vain.


Just as fun as the DC deck building game, but providing more of a team experience, the Marvel Legendary demo left me just as happy, and wanting to play again!  I compared the two games over and over in my head, and with Mrs. Tox, and we both agreed, both are great!  DC is more of the Hero experience and Marvel is more the Super Group experience and both hit the mark with a home run! 


All of this and I haven't even touched on the Mega-Boobed girl at the Super Dungeon Explore booth, the epic X-Wing fights on a table that looked like a Galactic Battle Cruiser, the incredbile dungeon tables at Geek Chic, the Mage Wars team we met who were all awesome, and finding a way to pack all this to come home!


Gen Con 2012 was an awesome event, and one that went by faster than a lightning bolt!  We met great people, great reviewers, great vendors and great fans!  Speaking of, if you were nice enough to stop me and say hi, THANK YOU!  It was a totally new experience meeting people as a reviewer this year and having people thank me, but seriously, THANK YOU!  It's your viewership, readership, your follows, your shares, your likes, your re-tweet and your subscriptions that make a difference in what I can do to get info back to you and for all you do in being a fan, I thank you, from the bottom of my hard working heart!


Here's some pics I took, I hope you enjoy!  See you next year!  PS - Yes, Cory gave us signed games... and yes, you'll have a chance to win them soon!


Click HERE, or the picture below, to pics from Gen Con 2012 at Crits Happen Facebook page!

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Comments: 4
  • #1

    Dustin Hall (Sunday, 26 August 2012 13:56)

    Its probably a good thing you didn't touch (on) the Mega-Boobed girl. lol Great write-up. It put into perspective for me, just how busy you were and just how much fun you had at the Con.

  • #2

    critshappen (Sunday, 26 August 2012 14:12)

    Thanks! I don't know, that might have been fun! It was great, especially meeting so many cool people in person and playing games!

  • #3

    Father Geek (Thursday, 30 August 2012 12:55)

    Excellent summary. I would venture to suggest you had more fun than me, but that would be pure silliness.

  • #4

    critshappen (Thursday, 30 August 2012 17:18)

    Thanks FatherGeek! I doubt that, as you were moving so fast, you were Mr. Invisible to me! Hope you had fun though! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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